Supermarkets in Canada are taking a big step in the fight against food waste and food insecurity.
As part of the Supermarket Recovery Program (SRP), more than 600 stores across the Province of Quebec will donate excess produce to foodbanks. Run by Food Banks of Quebec, the program aims to handle 14,000 tons of food per year and feed 400,000 people, 150,000 of them children.
“We’ve got enough food in Quebec to feed everybody, let’s not be throwing things out,” Sam Watts, executive director of the Welcome Hall Mission, which has partnered with SRP, told Global News Canada. “Let’s recuperate what we can recuperate and let’s make sure that we get it to people who need it.”
SRP started as a pilot program in 2013, operating primarily in Montreal and Quebec City, and limited its food recovery to excess meat products. By 2016, the operation had expanded to include its own warehouse and provided waste reduction training for supermarket employees.
That year, the pilot program recovered almost 2.5 million kilograms (more than 2,755 tons) of food from 177 different supermarkets.
That success, along with a CAN$395,200 grant from Recyc-Quebec, a recycling advocacy organization, led to the 2017 province-wide launch.
The greatest challenge is logistics.
“Supermarkets couldn’t accommodate individual food banks coming to them one by one by one,” Watts said. “The idea is that we will be able to do it quickly while the food is still fresh.”
With so much wasted food and so many people going hungry, SRP is the liaison between the supermarkets and food banks, collecting the excess food and delivering it in a timely fashion to where the need is greatest.
It’s no easy task, and requires a variety of resources for distribution.
“Refrigerated trucks, collection bins, freezers, wrapping materials, cleaning and food safety equipment and many other items are needed to further expand the program’s capacity,” the project’s website says.
In addition to feeding those in need, half of which are families with children, the program will help the environment.
By saving tons of edible food from landfills, SRP lowered carbon dioxide emissions by 2000 tons in 2016. With the expanded operation, the program is expected to reduce CO2 by 13,000 tons per year.
Globally, 1.3 billion tons of food gets thrown out each year.
It’s strange that those figures feature the same numerals (a one and a three). Then again, it’s also strange that one of the world’s greatest problems – food waste – is the solution to another – food insecurity. All we have to do is get excess food on dinner plates instead of in trash cans.
Efforts like Supermarket Recovery Project are doing just that. Somebody get them more refrigerated trucks!